Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Natural Prozac Smoothie for Hangover Victims

It pains me to admit the following, but who am I kidding by believing otherwise:
  • The older you get, the harder it becomes to recover from a hangover
Fact. I celebrated my brother’s wedding last weekend like a lunatic let out of an asylum during a full moon. I’d just finished a 21-day detox as part of a writing project/new lifestyle I’m currently working on. I literally shocked my body by going from uber-healthy green-juice-drinking junkie to Captain Morgan with orange and a dodgy tasher. Wowsa. And I did it for three days straight.
You can imagine my melancholy waking up at 6:30am yesterday morning and realising I had deadlines, clothes to wash and general life-sorting to do. Yuk. Ick. Gross. Those were my sentiments. So I blindly went about my chores, letting out sighs and grunts while moaning to anyone with an ear about how bleak the world looks through the lens of a fugly hangover.
Last night, after spotting myself following a train of thought that was particularly self-sabotaging, I put my foot down. “No more,” I said internally, “Cheer fooking up!”
So I went to sleep on a mission to have a lovely day today with my boy. And it wasn’t half bad (I could stretch to very nice, but let's go handy here). I have a personal formula for getting out of a misery pit, which is this or something like it:

  •       Time in nature

  •    Healthy food

Because I had shopping to do, I went and bought some nature with the intention of spending time in it this weekend. I got me a fine selection of her goodness, between plants, seeds and some quality food.

Check out the ingredients to my natural Prozac smoothie, and hear about why each one has a positive influence on the mind:

  •  One bananaBananas are rich in potassium, which is a vital mineral for nerve function. The natural sugars in bananas are released quickly into the bloodstream, making you feel energetic. This fruit contains plenty of starchy carbohydrate, which sustains your good mood.
  • Acacia honey – Honey is packed with quercetin and kaempferol, which help clean up the free radicals and reduce inflammation, unlike other sugars which cause inflammation 
  • 4 crushed cardamom pods – cardamom’s mood elevating properties help reduce the depletion of vitamins needed to support the adrenals during times of stress. 
  • Unsweetened almond milk Almonds increase brain power because they contain phenylalanine, a chemical that passes through our blood-brain barrier and makes our brain produce our natural mood stabilizing hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine, which also reduce pain in the body. 
  • Milled Chia seeds – full of omega 3. Omega 3 fatty acids have been clinically shown to protect against mental health problems and suicide risks. Previous placebo-controlled trials demonstrate that 2 grams of omega 3 fatty acids per day reduced suicidal thinking by 45 percent, along with depression and anxiety. Now for ya.  
  •  5 strawberries. Strawberries are a rich source of vitamin C, which helps in the production of endorphins and aid the absorption of iron. They are also a good source of potassium, which helps in the generation of nerve impulses. The red colour of strawberries is due to anthocyanidin, a flavonoid known as pecargonidin.These also change our mood for the better.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Yindees Downtown Kilkenny: Thai Food At Its Best

There’s a dinner party scene in the gastronomically sensual movie Chocolat that sums up the joy of eating good food. Juliette Binoche, playing the part of passionate and gifted Chocolatier, cooks up a storm for birthday girl Judi Dench, who acts the part of a lonely, fun-loving woman with big opinions living in a small, obedient community. Guests include Johnny Depp, in his role as a travelling gypsy, and other quirky, non-conventional sorts.  When the food is brought to the table, the camera zooms in on ornate platters of lovingly made dishes of food. Instrumental music plays softly as the camera follows the silent reactions of the guests. Smiles, quiet glances, bulging contentment and soft faces of gratitude precede loud laughing, hand clapping, the sound of glugging wine pouring into raised glasses and a gorgeous variety of other celebrations. Song and dance follows, with other small delights of a wonderful shared experience, like story and joke telling.

As I sat in the subtly lit surrounding of Yindees in Kilkenny with my fiancĂ© I remembered that scene. The sunbathed faces of Thailand’s people looked down from the walls through canvas pictures; smiling women in cone hats working in fields, or in tiny boats selling fresh produce; boy monks in orange robes collecting alms, and wonderful portraits of the Buddha. The decor is inviting, tasteful and effectively represents the cuisine its guests have come to eat.

I ordered the crispy potato and pumpkin cake for starters. A small rocket salad sat on the side, with a drizzling of sweet dressing. The best word I can come up with to describe the feeling it invited in me was comforted. It was crisp, fluffy and sweet all in one bite. My other half ordered the lamb martabak - slow cooked lamb potatoes and spices in pastry, with mint and yogurt dressing. Not one for words, he just pointed downwards with his fork a few times, and made a noise that sounded a lot like “Um, mm, mmmmmm.”  I sipped a perfectly decadent Cosmopolitan cocktail as I waited for my next course. He ordered a Kiwi beer, called James Boag's, which he hadn’t necked since his days in Australia. The atmosphere was conducive to relaxed fun. The staff was top class, and checked in on us regularly, topping up our water and ensuring we were happy. Large numbers of guests sat around us, visibly enjoying the vibe too. The place was almost to capacity, which was impressive for a wet night in January.

I had wok-fried tofu and vegetable noodles for my main. I used the wedge of lime at the top of the dish to dress it in fresh juice. The first taste turned me into my partner. Lost for words, I simply sounded out my joy. As a vegetarian, it really is hard to get a good dish at a restaurant, but this was simply not the case at Yindees. The tofu was crisp, and well chopped into small cubes, as opposed to the massive chunks usually served up at other oriental restaurants. The flavours were a complex but perfectly suited medley of fire and spice.  I finished the entire serving, which let me tell you was not meagre.  My partner had already made headway through his curry before I even pretended to care about how he was enjoying it. 

Dessert - lychee panna cotta -  brought me back to my time in Hanoi, where I used to buy large bags of lychees from women in cone hats and eat them at my desk at Vietnam News. Fresh, sweet and hydrating, it is such an exotic fruit, and one that is guaranteed to trigger an endorphin release. My happy fiancĂ©, not usually one for high praise, doted on his mango and passion fruit cheesecake. His was the better choice (as usual) but the panna cotta wasn’t to be dismissed either. Admittedly, though, it is probably more suited to those who like a rich, gooey texture after their dinner.
We’ll be going back. 

Monday, 7 January 2013

Seven Months Later...

Last night there was a miracle, a cracking belter of a miracle. I’m hovering over the floorboards in my house this morning after it. Not to exaggerate, but it was better than when Santa’s sleigh took off from Central Park in Miracle on 34th Street. It was better than when Moses spilt the sea, or when Peter and Wendy tried out flying for the first time. Only mothers will appreciate the full extent of it though. Here goes...

Kian slept uninterrupted in his own room in a cot!  Alone. As in, by himself! This has major implications for my life. It means I can now read in bed with the light on; that I can hit the sack and not have to lie on the crumby bit of space leftover at the edge after dad and baby have positioned themselves for the night. I won’t be woken at 2 and 3 and 4 in the morning by someone too cute to throw out - someone who likes pulling the hair out of my scalp and shoving his fingers up my nose. Someone who likes to scat and chant all sorts of baby talk at unholy hours because he’s cramped, or uncomfortable, or bored or who knows.

 Admittedly, not every parent goes through what I did because most are smart enough to implement a routine from the beginning and stick with it. Baby sleeps in the crib and goes to bed at roughly the same time every night and there’s no more about it. But I’m a first time mom, and a nervous enough one at that. I worry inordinately about the consequences of my actions upon my son’s emotional and mental wiring. I desperately want him to grow up happy and secure, and I want him to feel confident and loved. What I’m now learning is that I don’t have to be with him around the clock to achieve this.

Kian was ready for his own space.  He wanted it. So now we have to scramble around and pick up the bits we didn’t expect we’d actually need anytime soon – like a bumper to block the draught. We resorted to using the crib one as an emergency replacement last night.  We’ll also need to get one of those night lights that make stars on the ceiling. The little ripper really surprised us – who knew he didn’t need me breathing down his neck at night anymore than I needed to curl my toes in pain every time he ripped a rib from me!

He looked so comfortable in his cot all night long. So cosy and cute and grown up. I’m not naive enough to believe that every night will be as last night was, but if it’s anything close to it then I’ve got some still waters ahead. I’ve got some of myself back. I’ve got an independent baby.

 Proud lump in the throat forms. Geeky smile follows, with a “Thank you, God!”

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A Dose of Realism Never Hurt Anyone...

It’s my annual New Year’s clear-out, and I’m filled with the same enthusiasm and hope as every other year before. But there’s a big difference this year, and it’s not insignificant. Wait for it: I’ve become a realist. Not in the nihilistic there’s-no-God sense, but in the you-need-to-work-really-hard-to-achieve-results sense. I’m filled with the wisdom of folks who say things like ‘If you move just a grain a day, eventually you will move a mountain.”

My resolution list is no longer piled high with Get Rich Fast schemes and daydreams. It’s solid, and that’s thanks to Kian. He has sobered me right up and ended my nebulous stupors of legless ambition. Thank you, baby.

I’ve also learned another lesson – no leaking my plans. From now on, I will write only about results, not what I’m going to do, because experience has taught me that once I have shared my excitement and over-enjoyed the initial dreaming-up of things, I fan out and quench. So no more of that – I’m over sharing my plans.

All I will share is my desire to stay in a healthy frame of mind throughout the entire year and to maintain my smokless lifestyle. I’m re-reading Kris Carr’s Crazy, Sexy Diet, and having my first flirtation with spirulina in my green juice as I write this. Diet is what supports everything else, so I figure if the foundations are solid, the structure won’t decay.

Here’s to a really wonderful 2013 everybody.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Merry Christmas, Kian.

It's been year for the books. My creativity reached its peak with the emergence of my son, Kian, from my, well, we'll just say body. And what a major learning curve I've been negotiating since he exploded centre stage into the story of my life.

I think he came to change a thing or two about my ideas about life. I'm a floating, dreamer type with an irrational propensity towards wanderlustful adventure, or misadventure depending on your perspective. Kian has given me roots; roots I never thought I wanted. Because of him, I will never again use a dice instead of a five-year plan. I will always consider the impacts of my actions on his life, and knowing that I am a significant agent of his happiness means more to me than anything else ever will or could. It also means I'm now an adult.

He's taught me life is best lived as a perpetual experiment, led in equal parts by gut feeling and common sense, the balance of which is vital. Heady, thought-controlled approaches espoused in so many of the mothering books I've since thrown in the bin, are no good. And either is an attitude of 'whatever happens, happens.' Because you can't tell a hungry child that's it's no biggy you 'just forgot' his bottle. It's a very big biggy. Forgetfulness isn't a forgivable, charming quirk when you're a mother - it's an ailment to be taken seriously and corrected. But that doesn't mean that spontaneity gets usurped, either. It just learns to live beside it's well-intentioned neighbour, predictability. And, surprisingly, they make cosy bedfellows.

My creativity has found its place within the sometimes militaristic structures of domestic life, for example. I still desire to invent the things that float in my thoughts late at night. And sometimes, I actually do. This Christmas I wanted to bake up a storm, and I did. I even had cute, but highly kitsch,
'Kian's 1st Christmas' ribbon made. It did a great job wrapping my homemade granola and chocolate truffles. The cupcakes, muffins and strawberry cream sponge didn't need many frills. Just a rose or two, and some festive sprinkles :)


Spot the yule log? Wish I had taken a better picture before it met its end.

So 2012 is ending, not the world, and I'm a baking mamma - 2011 Aud would have screamed at the thought. She would have been silly to, because life is, figuratively and literally, very sweet right now.

Merry Christmas, Kian! Your very first one :)

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Stupid Vegetarians!

I’m a vegetarian in Newmarket. It doesn’t have the same mass resonance as the song about the Englishman in New York who felt like an alien, does it? And it certainly doesn’t conjure up feelings of sympathy. Vegetarians? Tree-hugging, hypocritical weirdos – the lot of ‘em. That tends to be the general consensus.

I never intended to make an identity out of vegetarianism, and I certainly never thought I’d have to make a case outlining why I think it might be a nice idea for people to be kinder to vegetarians. But here I am, four years down the line, feeling a little, well, emotional.

When I made the decision to snub meat, I never imagined that every dinner party or occasion revolving around food (which is all of them) would result in me playing out the part of annoying, awkward, do-gooder who enjoys making life difficult for chefs, hosts and amateur cooks. I have no idea why such foresight escaped me, but it truly did. I never thought I’d have to share personal information to strangers about the reasons why I choose not to eat meat. I didn’t anticipate the spotlights or the inquisitions, or the eyes-to-heaven looks that follow my admission that I don’t eat meat.

Some people are offended when I spill the beans, which makes little sense to me. Maybe it’s because they feel I judge them for eating meat because it’s clear to them that I hold the belief that to eat it is intrinsically wrong. I can understand that. But here’s the thing: I’m not judging. It’s OK to share a table with people who don’t share your opinions – we all do it every day of our lives. Why is the vegetarian issue such a hot one, then? People don’t get impassioned when an individual presents to a group admitting they don’t eat, say, oat bran muffins. Why? Because nobody really gives a toss about oat bran muffins.  

So I have to ask: what sensitive nerves are vegetarians sitting on? If carnivores are truly guilt-free about their decision to eat meat, and I suspect most are, why do they feel the need to be aggressive towards vegetarians? Why all the put downs and jibes and disrespectful comments?

People often haughtily say to me: “You don’t really thing meat is murder, do you?” All I can say in response is that it is not suicide. We all know animals don’t go to slaughterhouses because they’re so fed up with life they just want to die. Our rational brains know this. So when you ask me if meat is murder, and murder is described as the taking of a life without the consent of the being whose life is being taken, how can I not answer in the affirmative? It’s a logical answer that has nothing whatsoever to do with opinion.

I don’t eat meat because I have seen what happens in slaughterhouses. I have read compelling research about the emotional lives of farm animals. I have looked into the eyes of a cow and seen fear. I am aware that it’s a carcass on a plate, even though it’s garnished in herbs and wrapped in breadcrumbs. Those are my reasons. I am not on a mission to convert the masses. I am one person doing what I feel is right for me.

Is that so annoying?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Growing, making, creating – Somebody Stop Me!

My little apartment has morphed into a veritable plant sanctuary. Since beginning The Ringing Cedars Series, an eight part volume of concentrated and sometimes incredible wisdom, I’ve been sowing seed after seed. It started with a salad mix and some mange tout, then progressed uncontrollably to sunflowers, marigolds, foxgloves, calendula, poppies and evening primrose. I don’t know what’s next – maybe some cotton so I can create a fashion line - though limited acreage may present a challenge there!

Here’s some snaps of my growing little ones – the flowers have yet to come up. I’m encouraging them with banana skin, a tip I got from the movie Seven Pounds.  Can’t knock it till you try it, right?

The Sunflowers and salad mix...

The mange tout...

And, oooooo, I’m also experimenting with cosmetics and just made some lovely, bubbly coconut shampoo, a body scrub and some summer cream for the God Pod, or body! It’s all so wonderfully simple J